It’s that time of year again!
Every October it's time to put my anxiety girl cape on just in time for Halloween and I’ll leave it on until after Christmas for sure!
It’s no secret that the holidays stir up ALL of the stressful things in life. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s missing loved ones. Or maybe, like me, you get anxious because you may not have a place to gather for the holidays.
Personally I want to be sitting at a full table and honestly I prefer to have it at my home and to cook all of the things too! I may be type A, not sure!
The past 15 years being a military spouse this has never been an issue. Then, we moved to a very non-military duty station. Back in the day, my hubby would get in the car, head to the barracks, and run through grabbing up anyone that was spending the holiday alone.
My favorite memory is filling up our tiny 800 square foot apartment with soldiers who had just returned from Afghanistan. They were all still in the reintegration period so couldn’t take leave, and being overseas in Germany, most of them had no family around. We may not have had much space, but we did have lots of good food and love flowing thick around that tiny table! After many trips in our then tiny two door hatchback (this was pre-kids, my minivan would have been useful) our house and my heart were so full!
Over the years we found ourselves in the same scenarios over and over again. We would be in a foreign country surrounded by people who were in the same situation with no family nearby.
So, we become one another's family.
Holidays alone, when the soldiers were deployed, were hard- but not to fear- four of my neighbors were going through that same deployment. We even sometimes found ourselves close enough to family to make the trip home. The end result is this: no matter how you looked at it, we always had a full house and it was easy.
Another one of my favorite memories was again being overseas living in government leased housing on the economy. We had our own little community living on that street with 13 other military families in the center of a German town. We became each other's people and our kids became family too!
If you think you have a lot of cousins, you should ask a military kiddo how many they have. The soldiers would deploy and we would all gather. Carrying the hot turkey and gravy down the road to the chosen house for that particular holiday celebration. We all took turns hosting, wasn't fair to make the same person clean their quarters up over and over again to entertain us. Sure we were all sad and missing our soldier, but we had one another. Not to mention ovens in use in every house so the food was all hot and ready to eat all at once! Tell me how often that happens for your holiday meal. I had 14 ovens and access to all of them! There are so many unspoken perks in this military lifestyle!
Over the years the holidays were made easy for me. It was our life and it was something that always stayed consistent during the inconsistency. There was always someone going through the same thing as me and needing someone to spend the holidays with.
Then, in 2015, when we came to MI. It felt like my support system had been stolen from me.
People here have their circles and their families here. Most of them have lived here their entries lives, and they complain about how many stops they will have to make to please everyone on both sides of the family. Seriously, some of these people have like half a dozen dinners to go to! This was foreign to me. What does that even look like?
It makes it feel impossible to invite people to my home and I don't expect them to invite my crew to their family festivities. That would be awkward! Or maybe it wouldn't… honestly I don’t know.
You see I lived in my bubble for far too long. I love my comfort zone. I was very cozy there! Quite honestly, I really liked it there.
Things were easy and I liked the consistency of the inconsistency this life brought to me especially around the holidays.
I always knew no matter what there would be another spouse going through what I was going through and then we could do it together. Then I tried to make it in the civilian world and royally failed at it the first few years. I waited for invites that never came and sat at an “empty” table. I always have my family. My three girls and my husband are my constant, but I needed more especially during the holidays to fill my cup and my soul. I needed to be serving people who had no where else to go and cook for an Army...literally!
So here we are, four years into this “civilian” lifestyle, and the holidays are near. And so is retirement! There is no going back to that old life and I’m scared. I typically start stressing at the beginning of October as the season starts to change and I know the holidays are near! I have already grieved what is now my past life and need to find new traditions and new "normal" for my family.
You know what they always say about us military spouses. We are resilient, we are brave, we can do hard things. We are, and sure we can, but is doesn’t mean it’s always easy. As hard at this life can be, some things about it are so easy.
If you are a civilian finding yourself near a military family invite them in, especially for the holidays. If you are military in the civilian world, hang on tight because it’s a different world on the outside. Remind yourself you can do hard things. Try something new and jump in with both feet. I may host my first "Friendsgiving" this year to ensure I have a full house and happy heart to follow!
Ashley Gammon is an Army spouse of over 15 years, a women's health advocate, and the Community Manager for M.O.M.S.- an outreach of M.U.T.U. She is passionate about starting conversations around women's health-specifically pelvic floor core health. She wants to be part of a movement that empowers women to be amazed by their bodies and change the narrative surrounding women's health.
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